ONLY FOR THE GOSPEL
1:27, NKJV: "Only let your conversation be as
it becometh the
gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I
may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one
mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;"
1:27, NIV: "
happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of
Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in
my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit,
contending as one man for the faith of the gospel."
Philippians 1:27, NLT: "Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven [BEFORE you are citizens of
earth], conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good
News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only
hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one
spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is
the Good News."
The word “conversation” is a gross
mistranslation by the King James translators because the translators did
not retain the meaning of the original Greek word citizenship. The word
“conversation” is derived from the Greek word politeuomai, (politeu,esqe).
The word “politics” and “citizen” or “city” (polis) comes from this
term. It refers to the business of the city counsel by the counsel
members. It could be translated “politick” your self or “conduct”
The words “only” and “becometh” are
adverbs modifying the main verb “politicking.”
The term “becometh” (avxi,wj)
can be translated “worthily.” It refers to the dignity of conduct
associated with high status in a society such as one sitting on the city
counsel as an official representative. Christians are citizens of the
kingdom of God and have the high calling of reflecting the character of
The term “only” is the first word in the
sentence which grammarians call the emphatic position; that is, Paul is
emphasizing the solitary duty of politicking only for and on behalf of
the gospel of Jesus Christ; that is, he is excluding the possibility of
acting for another cause or government. Philippi was proud of being a
Roman city. The greatest honor of any citizen was to be a counsel member
representing the people in conjunction with Rome. By using the term
“only” Paul excludes acting for any other purpose, any other cause, any
other civil order. Christians have a duty to the gospel and must conduct
their affairs in light of their citizenship in heaven. We can only have
one domicile, one permanent legal home.
The word politeo is a command; i.e.,
a present imperative calling for continuous, repetitive action that
should be translated “continually conduct yourself as a citizen” or
“politicking yourselves” in reference to the gospel. Christians are
ordered into the political arena to call men to abandon their allegiance
to this world and to surrender to rule and reign of Christ.
Consequently, believers should not be
surprised if their message is resisted and war erupts when citizens of
this world appose the proclamation and application of the gospel in
their polis. As
Christians represent themselves as citizens of God’s kingdom and call
men to repent of their sins and believe the gospel, world views are
going to collide. Flashes of canon fire will screech across the dark
sky. Crashing thunder will disrupt the peace. The smell of black smoke
will permeate the political atmosphere.
The application of this positive command
is profound and touches all that we do. Negative commands are narrow and
limited, but positive commands are broad and unlimited. This is a
positive command and its applications are politically unlimited. It
impacts our purpose and why we are on this earth. It challenges our
political associations; our party affiliations; our finances; our
loyalties. Our message confronts public debauchery, immorality, public
fraud, and immoral agendas. The gospel withstands the legal, political,
governmental, economic, and education systems present in society. There
can be no such thing as a separation of the secular and sacred. Our
gospel must oppose all that is wrong in society; expose all that is
twisted and perverted in politics; and impose the truth on all false
religious systems at work in our culture. Everything is holy and all
that we do must be for the precious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ
because He is our King and our domicile is in heaven.
commentaries on the above passage state the following:
Bible Exposition Commentary, Warren W. Wiersby, Victory Books, ISBN
The old English word conversation,of
course, means walk and not talk. “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ” (nasb). The most
important weapon against the enemy is not a stirring sermon or a
powerful book; it is the consistent life of believers.
The verb Paul uses is
related to our word politics. He is saying, “Behave the way citizens are supposed to behave.” My
wife and I were visiting in London and one day decided to go to the
zoo. We boarded the bus and sat back to enjoy the ride; but it was
impossible to enjoy it because of the loud, coarse conversation of
the passengers at the front of the bus. Unfortunately, they were
Americans; and we could see the Britishers around us raising their
eyebrows and shaking their heads, as though to say, “Oh, yes,
they’re from America!” We were embarrassed, because we knew that
these people did not really represent the best of American citizens.
Paul is suggesting that
we Christians are the citizens of heaven, and while we are on earth
we ought to behave like heaven’s citizens. He brings this
concept up again in Philippians 3:20. It would be a very meaningful
expression to the people in Philippi because Philippi was a Roman
colony, and its citizens were actually Roman citizens, protected by
Roman law. The church of Jesus Christ is a colony of heaven on
earth! And we ought to behave like the citizens of heaven.
“Am I conducting myself in a
manner worthy of the Gospel?” is a good question for us to ask
ourselves regularly. We should “walk... worthy of the calling” that
we have in Christ (Eph. 4:1, nasb), which means walking “worthy of the Lord unto all
pleasing” (Col. 1:10). We do not behave in order to go to heaven, as
though we could be saved by our good works; but we behave because
our names are already written in heaven, and our citizenship is in
Fee, G. D. (1999). Vol. 11: Philippians. The IVP New
Testament commentary series (77). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity
The Appeal (1:27)
The NIV’s whatever happens
translates the adverb “only,” a word “lifted like a warning
finger” (Barth 1962:45) to catch their attention about present
realities. Paul expects to be released from his present
imprisonment partly for the sake of his Philippian brothers and
sisters’ further “progress and joy” regarding “the faith.” But
in the meantime, while Paul is still “absent” from them, he
wishes to hear the same kind of good report “about your affairs”
(NIV about you
that he would hope to find had he been able to come now with
At issue is how the Philippians conduct themselves, meaning live out the gospel in Philippi. Pivotal to
the present appeal is that instead of the ordinary Jewish
metaphor “to walk [in the ways of the Lord],” Paul uses a
political metaphor, which will appear again in 3:20–21. The
people of Philippi took due pride in their having been made a
Roman colony by Caesar Augustus, which brought the privileges
and prestige of Roman citizenship. Paul now urges them to
live out their citizenship (conduct
yourselves) in a manner—and the
sentence begins with these emphatic words—worthy
of the gospel of Christ. What is
intended by this wordplay is something like “Live in the Roman
colony of Philippi as worthy citizens of your heavenly
homeland.” That, after all, is precisely the contrast made in
3:17–20, where “our citizenship is in heaven,” in contrast to
those whose minds are set on “earthly things.”
The use of this metaphor is a brilliant
stroke. Not only does it appeal to their own historic pride as
Philippians, but now applied to their present setting, it urges
concern both for the mission of the gospel in Philippi and
especially for the welfare of the state, meaning in this case
that they take seriously their “civic” responsibilities within
the believing community. Their being of one mind and heart is at
stake; disharmony will lead to their collective ruin.
How are they to bring this off? By standing firm in the one Spirit as they contend side by side as one person for the faith of the gospel. With these words, and in typical fashion, Paul switches
metaphors, this time to an athletic contest, probably used
metaphorically in turn to suggest a battle. The image is of
people engaged in spiritual warfare (imagery that will hardly be
lost on those who live in a military colony!), standing their
ground firmly by the power of the Holy Spirit, who as the one
Spirit is also the source of their unity (cf. 1 Cor 12:13), thus
anticipating 2:1. Despite the frequency of its appearance in
English translations, this phrase can scarcely mean in one spirit (NIV),
as though it meant to have a common mind about something. Such
an idiom with the word spirit is unknown in all of Greek literature. Paul himself uses this
phrase elsewhere to refer to the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:9, 13;
Eph 2:18), precisely in places, as here, where Christian unity
is at stake.
They are urged thus to stand firm in/by
the one Spirit so as to contend together as one person for the faith of the gospel. Here we are at the heart of things: their need to have harmony
within the Christian community as they live out the gospel in
Philippi. The gospel is the beginning and end of everything for Paul. Thus for them
to live out their (heavenly) citizenship in a manner worthy of the gospel means for them to contend for the
faith of the gospel, and to do so
in the unity that only the Spirit brings. All the more so now
because they are facing some kind of opposition that is
resulting in suffering.
1:27 On the phrase ta peri hymōn (“about
your affairs,” NIV about you), see the
note on 1:12 above.
For a discussion of the phrase
“in one Spirit,” see Fee 1995:163–66. Although most
English translations and commentators see in one spirit to work as a doublet with as one [person], the only thing that favors such a view is the
alleged doublet itself. This phrase (en
elsewhere in Paul’s letters refers to the Holy
Spirit. The Greek equivalent for something similar
to the French esprit de corps is the
one that follows, mia psychē (= “one
soul”), which occurs throughout Greek antiquity (in
the New Testament in Acts 4:32) and is noted by
Aristotle to be a common “proverbial” expression
about friendship (Nicomachean
Ethics 1163b). See
also the notes on 2:2 and 2:20.
The unusual phrase the faith of the gospel probably means “the faith contained in the gospel,”
or possibly “the faith, that is, the gospel,” in
either case thus picking up the language the faith from verse 25.
3. Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible
commentary : 21st century edition. Rev. ed. of: The new Bible
commentary. 3rd ed. / edited by D. Guthrie, J.A. Motyer. 1970. (4th ed.)
(Php 1:27). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity
call to live a life worthy of the gospel
come back again to Philippi or he may not. What matters, he
stresses, is that they live in a
manner worthy of the gospel of Christ
In all ages—and not least today—the greatest hindrance to the
advance of the gospel has been the inconsistency of Christians.
The gospel has its greatest influence when the lives of
Christians commend it, and that gives us our special
responsibility. The Greek word translated conduct yourselves
is the one from which our word ‘politics’ comes and the word
often conveys the idea of fulfilling one’s duty as citizen. In
Philippi, as we have noted, Roman citizenship was prized, but
the Philippian Christians had the responsibility to live
individually and corporately as heavenly citizens (cf.
3:20). Paul often speaks of the need to stand firm in the face
of opposition and difficulty (cf.
1 Cor. 16:13; Gal. 5:1; Eph. 6:11–14; 1 Thes. 3:8; 2 Thes.
Lightfoot, J. B., & Lightfoot, J. B. (1994). Philippians. Rev.
ed. of: Saint Paul's Epistle to the Philippians. 1913. The Crossway
classic commentaries (120). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.
27. Whatever. In the Greek the word here is “only.” “Whatever may happen,
whether I visit you again or visit you not”: see Galatians
2:10; 5:13; 6:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:7, where the same Greek
word, “only,” is used.
Conduct yourselves. “Perform your duties as citizens.” The metaphor of the
heavenly citizenship occurs again in 3:20 (“our citizenship is
in heaven”) and Ephesians 2:19 (“fellow citizens with God’s
people”). It was natural that, living in the capital of the
Empire, St. Paul should use this illustration. The metaphor,
moreover, would speak forcibly to his correspondents, for
Philippi was a Roman colony and the apostle had himself obtained
satisfaction, while in this place, by declaring himself a Roman
citizen (Acts 16:12, 37, 38). Though the word conduct is used
very loosely at a later date, at this time it seems always to
refer to public duties devolving on a man as a member of a body:
so it is in Acts 23:1—“I have fulfilled my duty to God”—where
St. Paul had been accused of violating the laws and customs of
the people and so subverting the theocratic constitution.
Stand firm. “Hold your ground.” For the metaphor see Ephesians 6:13,
“you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done
everything, to stand.”
In a later passage the apostle compares the
Christian life to the Greek stadium (3:14). Here the metaphor
seems to be drawn rather from the competitions of the Roman
amphitheater. Like criminals or captives, the believers are
condemned to fight for their lives. Against them are arrayed the
ranks of worldliness and sin; only unflinching courage and
steady combination can win the victory against such odds.
Compare “For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on
display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die
in the arena” (1 Corinthians 4:9).
Pulpit Commentary: Philippians. 2004 (H. D. M. Spence-Jones, Ed.) (6).
Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Ver. 27.—Only let
your conversation be. St. Paul exhorts
the Philippians to stead-fastness. Only, whatever happens, whether I come or no, πολιτεύεσθε, behave as citizens (comp. ch.
3:20, Ἡμῶν τὸ
πολιτεῦμα and Eph. 2:19, Συμπολῖται τῶν ἁγίων.
The verb also occurs in Acts 23:1, “I have lived (πεπολίτευμαι)
in all good conscience towards God.” St. Paul was himself a Roman
citizen; he was writing from Rome; his presence there was caused by
his having exercised the rights of citizenship in appealing to Cęsar.
He was writing to a place largely inhabited by Roman citizens (for
Philippi was a Roman colony), a place in which he had declared
himself to be a Roman (Acts 16:37). The metaphor was natural. Some
of you are citizens of Rome, the imperial city; live, all of you, as
citizens of the heavenly country, the city of the living God. As it becometh the gospel of Christ;
rather, as R.V. margin, behave as
citizens worthily of. There is a
striking parallel in Polycarp’s letter to these same Philippians
(sect. 5), Ἐὰν
πολιτευσώμεθα ἀξίως αὐτοῦ, καὶ συμβασιλεύσομεν αὐτῷ:
literally, “If we live as citizens worthily of him, we shall also
reign with him.” That whether I come
and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye
stand fast in one spirit. The metaphor
is military, and follows naturally from the thought of citizenship.
Philippi was a military colony, its chief magistrates were prętors, στρατηγοί
(Acts 16:20), literally, “generals” (comp. Eph. 6:13 and Gal. 5:1).
Spirit is the highest part of our immaterial nature, which, when
enlightened by the Holy Spirit of God, can rise into communion with
God, and discern the truths of the world unseen. In one spirit;
because the spirits of believers are knit together into one
fellowship by the one Holy Spirit of God abiding in them all. This
distinction between spirit and soul occurs again in 1 Thess. 5:23.
The soul is the lower part of our inner being, the seat of the
appetites, passions, affections, connected above with the πνεῦμα,
below with the σάρξ. With
one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; with one soul (not
mind); i.e. with all the desires and emotions concentrated on one object, all
acting together in the one great work; comp. Acts 4:32, “Striving
together with one another for the faith,” rather than “striving
together with the faith.” The personification of faith, though
approved by high authority, seems forced and improbable. Faith is
here used objectively; the faith of the gospel is the doctrine of
the gospel, as Gal. 1:23, “The faith which once he destroyed.”
Hughes, R. B., Laney, J. C., & Hughes, R. B. (2001). Tyndale concise
Bible commentary. Rev. ed. of: New Bible companion. 1990.; Includes
index. The Tyndale reference library (604). Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House
1:27–30 UNITY OF SPIRIT AND MIND
The Philippians’ unity of spirit and firm
standing in the face of their opponents was a sign of God’s
blessing on them and his displeasure of their opponents.
Opposition to the gospel would result in ultimate divine
judgment, while being persecuted was an indication of being
among the redeemed (John 15:18–25). The believers were to resist
the idea that questioned God’s care and control. This potential
idea and lapse of faith was the major problem Paul sought to
avert in his letter.
Philippi was a Roman colony, and the people
there were recognized as Roman citizens with the same legal
position and privileges as those living in Rome itself. But they
also had certain obligations and responsibilities—loyalty to the
emperor and obedience to the law. Likewise, believers are
citizens of heaven (3:20), and with that citizenship they also
have obligations. Paul explained that believers were responsible
as citizens of heaven to conduct themselves in a manner worthy
of the gospel that they represented.
Willmington, H. L. (1997). Willmington's Bible handbook (711).
Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers.
8. Wuest, K. S. (1997,
c1984). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the
English reader (Php 1:27). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
1:27–30 Wonderful news! You get to suffer for him! Paul exhorted the Philippians to be steadfast in their faith and
bold before their enemies, counting it a privilege to suffer for
Christ. Suffering is promised to all true believers (see 2 Tim.
word “only” connects Paul’s statement that the
assurance which he has that he will be given his freedom, comes from
the fact that the Philippian saints need his ministry, with his
exhortation to them to conduct themselves worthy of the gospel.
Since their need of his ministry is the only reason for his wishing
to remain on earth, it behooves the Philippian saints to receive
that ministry with an open heart, obey his Spirit-given
exhortations, and grow in their Christian experience.
The rest of the letter therefore has to do with
the spiritual needs of these saints. As we study these exhortations,
we discover what things were lacking in their lives and what things
needed to be corrected. The basic, all-inclusive exhortation is,
“Let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.”
The word “conversation” deserves special
attention. Today the word refers to the interchange of connected
discourse between two or more persons. At the time the Authorized
Version was translated, it meant “manner of life,” “behavior.” While
the Greek word from which it is translated means that, yet it means
more than that. It is the word politeuo (πολιτευο).
From it we get such words as “politic, political.” It referred to
the public duties devolving upon a man as a member of a body. Paul
uses it in Acts 23:1 where he answers the charge of having violated
the laws and customs of the Jewish people and so subverting the
theocratic constitution. He says, “I have lived in all good
conscience before God until this day.” The words “have lived” are
the translation of this word. Paul said in effect by the use of this
word, “I have fulfilled all the duties devolving upon me as a member
of the nation Israel in its relation to God.” Polycarp, writing to
the Philippians, and using this same word says, “If we perform our
duties under Him as simple citizens, He will promote us to a share
in His sovereignty.” The word “conversation” is the translation in
the New Testament of another Greek word anastrepho (ἀναστρεφο),
in such places as II Corinthians 1:12 and Ephesians 2:3, and means
“manner of life, behavior.” This Greek word means literally “to turn
hither and thither, to turn one’s self about,” and thus has come to
refer to one’s walk, manner of life, or conduct. But Paul uses a
specialized word here which is directly connected with the city of
Philippi and its citizens. The word anastrepho (ἀναστρεφο)
speaks of one’s manner of life considered as such, but the word Paul
uses in Philippians speaks of one’s manner of life seen as a duty to
a body or group of which one is a member, and to the head of that
group to whom he is responsible. It is a more inclusive word.
The use of this word has to do with the fact that
the city of Philippi was a Roman colony. Lightfoot says of its use:
“Appreciating its strategical importance of which he had had recent
experience, Augustus founded at Philippi a Roman military colony
with the high-sounding name ‘Colonia Augusta Julia Philippensis.’ At
the same time he conferred upon it the special privilege of the ‘jus Italicum.’
A colony is described by an ancient writer as a miniature likeness
of the Roman people; and this character is fully borne out by the
account of Philippi in the apostolic narrative. The political
atmosphere of the place is wholly Roman. The chief magistrates, more
strictly designated duumvirs
arrogate to themselves the loftier title of praetors
servants, like the attendant officers of the highest functionaries
in Rome, bear the name of lictors. The pride and privilege of Roman
citizenship confront us at every turn. This is the sentiment which
stimulates the blind loyalty of the people:1
that is the power which obtains redress for the prisoners and forces
an apology from the unwilling magistrates.2
Nor is this feature entirely lost sight of, when we turn from St.
Luke’s narrative to St. Paul’s epistle. Addressing a Roman colony
from the Roman metropolis, writing as a citizen to citizens, he
recurs to the political franchise as an apt symbol of the higher
privileges of their heavenly calling, to the political life as a
suggestive metaphor for the duties of their Christian profession.”
Paul uses the word in its noun form in 3:20 where he says, “For our
conversation is in heaven,” or as one could more fully translate,
“For the commonwealth of which we are citizens has its fixed
location in heaven.”
The use of this specialized word colors the
entire epistle, and gives to it a heavenly atmosphere. It teaches
us that Christians are citizens of heaven, having a heavenly origin,
and a heavenly destiny, with the responsibility of living a heavenly
life on this earth in the midst of ungodly people and surroundings,
telling sinners of a Saviour in heaven who will save them from their
sins if they but trust Him. The ethics in the letter are invested
with heavenly standards. The saints are reminded that as a colony of
heaven, they are to live heavenly lives on earth, representing their
Sovereign by a life which reflects Him. They are taught that
obedience to the ethics of the Pauline epistles is not merely
obedience to ethics as such, but involves a duty which they are
responsible to discharge as citizens of a heavenly kingdom, and as
subjects of a heavenly King. The earthly counterpart of this was the
institution of emperor worship, in which the subjects of Rome were
not only obligated to obey the laws as a political duty, but to obey
them as a religious one, since the emperor was worshipped as a god.
Paul says “Let your conversation be as it
becometh the gospel of Christ.” The expression could be variously
translated: “Behave as citizens.” “Live as citizens.” “Perform your
duties as citizens.” It is in the middle voice, which voice is
defined as follows: When a verb is in the middle voice, the subject
acts upon itself. For instance, “the man is prodding his own
conscience.” Here, the Philippian saints are exhorted to act upon
themselves in recognizing their duties with respect to their
heavenly citizenship, and holding themselves to them. It is a
stronger exhortation than merely that of commanding someone to do
something. In the latter kind of exhortation, the person obeys the
one who exhorts. But in the form in which Paul gives the
exhortation, the person exhorted is to recognize his position as a
citizen of a heavenly kingdom, and while obeying the exhortation as
a matter of obligation to God, yet at the same time realize his
responsibility to obey it because of the privileged position he
occupies, and literally exhort or charge himself to do the same. One
could translate therefore: “Only see to it that you recognize your
responsibility as a citizen and put yourself to the absolute
necessity of performing the duties devolving upon you in that
The Greek word translated “becometh” is most
interesting. When it is used with the genitive case, it means
“having the weight of (weighing as much as) another thing.” It
means, “of like value, worth as much.” Other meanings are
“befitting, congruous, corresponding.” The saints are to see to it
that their manner of life weighs as much as the gospel they profess
to believe, or their words will not have weight. That which gives
weight to a Christian’s words, is the fact that his manner of life
befits, is congruous to, corresponds with the gospel he preaches.
In the Greek word translated “stand fast,” the
ideas of firmness or uprightness are prominent. It means “to stand
firm and hold one’s ground.” The implication is clear that when one
holds one’s ground, he does it in the face of enemy opposition. They
are to stand fast in one spirit. The word “spirit” here refers to
the unity of spirit in which the members of the church should be
fused and blended. The Greek word “spirit” is used at times of the
disposition or influence which fills and governs the soul of anyone.
It is so used here. This unity of spirit when present among the
members of a local church, is produced by the Holy Spirit.
The word “mind” is the translation of the Greek
word “soul.” The soul is that part of man which on the one hand
receives impressions from the human spirit, and on the other hand,
from the outer world. It is the sphere of the emotions, the reason,
and the will. It is that in and by which the exertion here spoken of
would take place. “Striving” is the translation of a Greek word used
of an athletic contest. We get our words “athlete” and “athletics”
from it. A prefixed preposition implying co-operation, makes the
total meaning of the word refer to an athletic contest in which a
group of athletes co-operates as a team against another team,
working in perfect co-ordination against a common opposition. Paul
is exhorting the members of the Philippian church to work together
in perfect co-ordination just like a team of Greek athletes. This
illustration was not lost upon the Greek readers of Paul’s letter.
This is the first intimation in the latter that there were some
divisions in the church. Paul had somehow gotten out of a possibly
reluctant Epaphroditus, that all was not well in the Philippian
church. The words, “the faith,” are a technical term referring to
Translation: Only (since my only reason for
remaining on earth is for your progress in the Christian life), see
to it that you recognize your responsibility as citizens (of
heaven), and put yourselves to the absolute necessity of performing
the duties devolving upon you in that position, doing this in a
manner which is befitting to the gospel of Christ, in order that
whether having come and having seen you, or whether being absent I
am hearing the things concerning you, namely, that you are standing
firm in one spirit, holding your ground, with one soul contending
(as a team of athletes would) in perfect co-operation with one
another for the faith of the gospel.
Pfeiffer, C. F., & Harrison, E. F. (1962). The Wycliffe Bible
commentary : New Testament (Php 1:27). Chicago: Moody Press.
VI. Exhortation to Steadfastness. 1:27-30.
Lest their boasting lead to carelessness
in the conflict against paganism, Paul sounds a note of warning.
With unity and steadfastness they were to go on contending for
27. They were to live as worthy citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Paul’s use of politeuomai,
“to live as a citizen,” “to fulfill corporate duties,” instead
of the more usual peripateō,
“to walk”, would be noted and appreciated in a Roman colony like
Philippi. The word stresses the effect of the Christian
community in a pagan society. Whether I come . . . or . . . am absent does not indicate doubt concerning the future but is an attempt
to disengage them from undue dependence upon him. The thought of
gladiatorial combat runs throughout these verses: They are to take a firm stand (stēkō), join in combat (synathleō)
and not be frightened (ptyreomai,
v. 28). One spirit designates a unified offensive; one
soul (seat of affections)
indicates that unity must extend to inward disposition.
28. The verb, to be terrified,
pictures frightened horses about to stampede. The opponents were
not the Judaizers but members of a violently hostile element at
Philippi. The fearlessness of the Christians was a clear omen
the adversaries that their attempts to thwart the Gospel were
futile and only led to their own destruction.
It also revealed to
them that God was on the other side (reading of your salvation,
not to you of salvation
29. It is given
could be more literally translated, It has been graciously conferred (charizomai
is the verb form of charis
“grace”). “The privilege of suffering for Christ is the
privilege of doing the kind of work for him that is important
enough to merit the world’s counterattack” (Simcox, op. cit.
61). To suffer for Christ
(in the interest of his cause) is a favor granted only to those
who believe in him.
30. Connect with verse 28a. The Philippians were involved in the
same sort of conflict
our word agony
which Paul had been (Acts 16:19 ff.
) and still was
The letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians. 2000,
c1975 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.). The
Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. (29). Philadelphia: The Westminster
CITIZENS OF THE KINGDOM
One thing you must
see to whatever happens—live a life that is worthy of a citizen
of the Kingdom and of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I
come and see you, or whether I go away and hear how things go
with you, the news will be that you are standing fast, united in
one spirit, fighting with one soul the battle of the gospel’s
faith, and that you are not put into fluttering alarm by any of
your adversaries. For your steadfastness is a proof to them that
they are doomed to defeat, while you are destined for
salvation—and that from God. For to you has been given the
privilege of doing something for Christ—the privilege of not
only believing in him, but also of suffering for him, for you
have the same struggle as that in which you have seen me
engaged, and which now you hear that I am undergoing.
thing is essential—no matter what happens either to them or to
Paul the Philippians must live worthily of their faith and
profession. Paul chooses his words very carefully. The
Authorized Version has it: “Let your conversation be as it
becometh the gospel of Christ.” Nowadays this is misleading. To
us conversation means talk;
but it is derived from the Latin word conversari, which means to conduct oneself.
In the seventeenth century a person’s conversation was not only his way of speaking to other people; it was his
whole behaviour. The phrase means: “Let your behaviour be
worthy of those who are pledged to Christ.”
But on this occasion Paul uses a word which
he very seldom uses in order to express his meaning. The word he
would normally use for to conduct oneself in the ordinary
affairs of life is peripatein,
which literally means to walk about;
here he uses politeuesthai,
which means to be a citizen.
Paul was writing from the very centre of the Roman Empire, from
Rome itself; it was the fact that he was a Roman citizen that
had brought him there. Philippi was a Roman colony; and Roman
colonies were little bits of Rome planted throughout the world,
where the citizens never forgot that they were Romans, spoke the
Latin language, wore the Latin dress, called their magistrates
by the Latin names, however far they might be from Rome. So what
Paul is saying is, “You and I know full well the privileges and
the responsibilities of being a Roman citizen. You know full
well how even in Philippi, so many miles from Rome, you must
still live and act as a Roman does. Well then, remember that
you have an even higher duty than that. Wherever you are you
must live as befits a citizen of the Kingdom of God.
What does Paul expect from them? He expects
them to stand fast. The world is full of Christians on the retreat, who, when
things grow difficult, play down their Christianity. The true
Christian stands fast, unashamed in any company. He expects unity;
they are to be bound together in one spirit like a band of
brothers. Let the world quarrel; Christians must be one. He
expects a certain unconquerability.
Often evil seems invincible; but the Christian must never
abandon hope or give up the struggle. He expects a cool, calm courage.
In times of crisis others may be nervous and afraid; the
Christian will be still serene, master of himself and of the
If they can be like that, they will set such
an example that the pagans will be disgusted with their own way
of life, will realize that the Christians have something they do
not possess, and will seek for very self-preservation to share
Paul does not suggest that this will be easy.
When Christianity first came to Philippi, they saw him fight his
own battle. They saw him scourged and imprisoned for the faith
(Acts 16:19). They know what he is now going through. But let
them remember that a general chooses his best soldiers for the
hardest tasks, and that it is an honour to suffer for Christ.
There is a tale of a veteran French soldier who came in a
desperate situation upon a young recruit trembling with fear.
“Come, son,” said the veteran, “and you and I will do
something fine for France.” So Paul says to the Philippians:
“For you and for me the battle is on; let us do something fine